Brotherly Love • Relief • Truth and Masonic Charity

What exactly does Masonic Charity mean? I’ve had two examples in the last week that have left me wondering what it means to be charitable, and especially as a Freemason, what that charity means.

I received 2 bits of mail this past week, one over the computer and one in the mail. The computer solicitation was unique in that it came from a private citizen, acting on the memory of a past mason, to ask if my parent site Freemason Information could help this individual with some cash or goods, because they were on rough times. The note was detailed to a fault for why they were in this situation, and that all they needed was “a little help”. At first I was startled to receive it, and then reading more started to feel for the writer and I began to think of ways to help them. I was genuinely feeling for this individual and in my gut I wanted to help.

But, I wanted to do my research first. I searched the e-mail address on-line and found several old posts from the individual on various web sites. Additionally, I found a web site that the individual had started (now defunct) acting as “sweepstakes” site, where people send in their money, and the owner would personally pull the name and award the winner. To me, it read like a scam and it swayed me to no longer trust the requester. I felt like I was being drawn into a ruse, and decided to not act as I had originally thought to. Instead, I suggested finding a local church pantry or other local aid, but that neither the sites FM, nor the local lodge per-se, were in a position to help in the manner asked. I did suggest further that if she wanted a more localized response, that she should contact a local lodge, and that they may have an almoner, though I did not suggest the latter.

The second request for charity came from my Grand Lodge. In their annual communications, one of the things they send out is a request for giving. On this occasion, the request was for contributions to support our master/warden schools for lodge management. The request was very clean and professional looking and came in a bulk mailed envelope with my information printed mechanically upon it. It had the look and feel of an organized campaign. Included with it was a letter, printed with the GM’s signature, to ensure the validity of the request. This was the 2nd such request this year, the earlier one, like a tithing card, asked for donations to help fund Masonic programs in general.

Receiving this request begged the question of me:

“is this what Freemasonry is all about”?

Is it just about giving to our charities to fund our programs? What have we done to bolster the membership, with group activities or access? The argument against these things is that there are things in a lodge for people to do who are interested, that all they need to do is ask. But is that how you nurture a thing? Is that the way to promote growth, connected-ness and unity? A picnic or a BBQ isn’t the ultimate answer, but it’s a start. Their need to be a greater level of communication and growth for the membership, and simply asking for money is not the way to do it.

The two requests came in the same week, and both met with a critical eye. Were these things a valuable investment or just money sent with off with no return? The altruistic answer would be that charity is often withourt seeing the reulst, when you give you just give. But here I disagree. If we continue to give and see nothing in return, personally or locally, then how can we be expected to continue to give more? A small gift to a person on the street may go miles to assuaging their immediate need, whether it’s for vice or nourishment. But a large gift to an anonymous program or institution can sometimes strain the trust of the giver. Doing our research on where these donations go is critical. Is it money well spent?

One example here that I can cite is the grand Masonic temples from the past. Masons built them, with their own funds, through their personal lodge programs, at times collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the membership, and hard work. When we are asked to give today, often we see no return on investment and this is a problem. The program on this giving card will have benefits, but does the membership need to fund it more than what the local lodge tithes to the Grand lodge? And what does it do in the immediate to build up freemasonry?

I believe in giving, I believe in Masonic charity, but in a well thought out way. Seeing results is critical to giving, in any situation. I also believe in being altruistic, but not to a fault. When we give, it is good to know that there is something at the end of the tunnel to see as a result of the giving. The tenants of Freemasonry say Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. I believe in all 3, but giving without a critical eye can, at times, will accomplish none of these things.

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~ by Greg on February 27, 2006.

3 Responses to “Brotherly Love • Relief • Truth and Masonic Charity”

  1. Excellent post, Brother Greg.

    Quite wise of you to investigate the person who solicited you for assistance. Scams abound. I’ve even read of scammers showing up in a small town, looking up a lodge officer or member, and then telling a sob story about having their car broken down in the lodge’s town. These con-artists sometimes actually try to pass themelves off as Masons.

    Appeals from Grand Lodges for to support Masonic education? I think that should be supported from the general fund (in our state each lodge is “taxed” by the Grand Lodge) or by the individual lodges that send men to these classes, or by the men who want to attend themselves.

  2. I will simply echo the same message. We each choose how to exercise our charitable impulses. One of the things I enjoy the most about Freemasonry is how it allows me to be engaged in acts of charity in very direct ways.

    First of all, the greatest gift we can give is time, not money. Anyone can write a check; it is little in the way of self-sacrifice. To give up your time, literally of your ‘self’, is quite something else entirely. I spend so much time with DeMolay, as well as other Masonic youth groups, that I feel very gratified.

    Within the context of Freemasonry I love that every time I ‘donate some money’ it is almost always within the context of fellowship. I attend probably one fund raiser a week. When I do donate money it is within my community and to causes I know, care for, and support.

    Instead of writing one big check for $1,000 and feeling good about myself, I can give $10 here and $50 there to many little causes directly. In the end it may add up to the same amount, but I get a great deal of fellowship and involvement this way.

    There can be an infinite number of requests for your money, it is up to you to choose where your money goes. Don’t feel obligated to donate money to any cause just because you were asked.

    Just pick the ones you want to align yourself with and, whenever possible, give of yourself not just your checkbook.

  3. I try to give of myself because I’m so often (like now, for example) unable to give with the checkbook.

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